Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sports Talk: Top 10 Casey County Sports Stories of 2013

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Dec. 25, 2013.  
1. Track & Field State Champions: Micah Smith & Shelby Stringer
Casey has done well to bring home a single state champion from the KHSAA 2A State Track and Field meet every so often, but last spring both the girls' and boys' team saw a gold medalist. Micah Smith, a 2013 graduate, cleared 6'4" in the high jump to set a new school record and take first among the state competition. Stringer not only won the girls' pole vault, but her height of 10' tied the state record, in addition to re-breaking her CCHS school record.

2. Girls' tennis team wins 12th Regional Championship
The Lady Rebel tennis squad returned a team last spring that earned the regional runner-up title for the first time in school history in 2012. They made history again when the team advanced both of its singles competitors and both of its doubles teams to the semifinals of the regional tournament and went on to claim the 12th Region title for the first time, which meant the ladies competed at state as a team for the first time in school history.

3. Girls Cross Country team qualifies for state
After having only a single varsity runner in 2012, the girls' cross country team qualified a team for the 2A State meet for the first time since 2007. The team was composed of only three high school athletes, Kelsey Arthur, Tiara Cochran and Caitlyn Pollick, while the bulk of the team were seventh grade athletes: Hailee Byrd, Laura Cuin, Breanna Davison, Noel Davison and Jenna Vaughn. With no seniors, the team hopes for a repeat in 2014.

4. CCHS adds girls’ soccer team
The high school added a new sport, girls’ varsity soccer. The last new sport came in 2003 with the cross country team. With a small roster and a limited number of games, the team, coached by Jeremy Franks, picked up two wins in its first season and qualified for the district tournament.

5. Lady Rebel basketball earns back-to-back district titles.
For only the second time in school history, the Lady Rebel basketball team earned back-to-back district titles. The last time the feat was accomplished was 2003 and 2004 when Casey County was part of the 45th District, rather than the 47th District. The team went on to compete in the 12th Region finals, facing Lincoln County for the second year in a row. The Lady Rebs narrowly missed a trip to the Sweet Sixteen Tournament when they lost by two in overtime.

6. Coach Randy Salyers announces upcoming retirement
Lady Rebel head coach Randy Salyers earned a spot in the 12th Region Coaches Association Hall of Fame as an athlete last March during the regional tournament. Shortly thereafter, the coach announced that the 2013-14 season would be his last year coaching the CCHS girls' team, ending a career that began in the fall of 1995 and has seen over 300 wins.

7. Maze Stallworth hired as new boys' basketball coach
After a two-year stint as boys' basketball head coach, Darry Burkett was fired from the position last spring. Maze Stallworth was hired as the new coach over the summer and began his first season with the Rebels this past fall.

8. Softball team earns district runner-up
After a season of only three total wins in 2012, the Lady Rebels advanced to the 47th District finals and took home the runner-up trophy after losing by one run to Rockcastle County. It was the team's first trip to the 12th Region tournament since 2005.

9. VolleyRebs earn district runner-up
The VolleyRebs continue to represent Casey County well with yet another trip to the 12th Region tournament. They earned the 47th District runner-up title after falling to Pulaski County in the championship game. They prevailed over Danville at the region and then fell to Wayne County in the second round, who went on to become the regional champs.

10. Boys' tennis regional runner-up
The boys' team took the 12th Region runner-up title, something somewhat unexpected.. 2012 was the first year since 2007 that the Rebels did not earn the regional runner-up or championship title. The team, which graduated its only 2012 state contender, came back with four seniors that led the team’s regional performance with three seniors advancing to the state tournament.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sports Talk: The New and Exciting Young Rebel Basketball Team

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Dec. 11, 2013.   
I've always enjoyed basketball and I've especially always enjoyed Casey County basketball. I suppose it's kind of a natural thing when you grow up playing for a team and cheering for them, that even in their weakest moments and seasons, you find yourself the optimist and rooting them on and finding the highlights.

However, I want to stress to all Casey County fans (and even those who maybe are not fans but love basketball) that it's time to get out of the house--even if that means facing some cold--and check out this year's teams.

I cannot actually speak for the Lady Rebels just yet, as I have yet to watch them play live... But considering where they left off last year and who they've returned (and what I've gathered from following them for my articles) they are no disappointment from what one would expect this year.

The Rebels, however, I have watched play, twice now. While the win over Washington County was of course fun, it was actually our loss to Marion County that got me so excited about this team. I was disappointed no one in my family had attended the game to share the excitement with me after the two-point loss that came in the final seconds of regulation time.

This year's boys' basketball team is truly an exciting group to watch. First of all, I get a great sense of "team" from these boys simply in the way they interact in warm ups and before games and during time outs. You see slaps on the bottom, high fives, arms around each other constantly. Every time a player comes out of the game, the bench stands and gives them five for their work on the court whether that player is having a stand out game or things just aren't going his way.

On the court... now that is something to see. This team is fast, fun and unselfish. Their hustle never stops. Multiple times Marion County got an 8-10 point lead on the Rebels last week, but we always bounced back. That's impressive for a team with only two seniors and starts three freshmen. Ninety percent of the time, these young guys are going to be facing primarily juniors and seniors--which usually makes a big difference and can cause some intimidation. You see none of that with these young men.

In addition to their nonstop hustle up and down the court, I love the way this team moves the ball. They read each other well and stealing the show for themselves is the last thing on any players mind. There have been times they've even fooled me into thinking they had turned the ball over, but before I knew it, we'd scored. Instead of a turnover, it had been a crazy fast pass to another open Rebel I had not even spotted. I'd much rather watch that kind of play any day than some one man magic show.

And on a side note, I'll mention this team loves us, the Casey County community. Before their game Saturday, they started their day off by volunteering for the Salvation Army and ringing bells in Liberty. They also attended the Pictures with Santa fundraiser taking place at the high school to raise money for Braydon Taylor's battle against.

Kudos to Coach Stallworth for what your doing for these young men both on and off the court.

The Marion County game, the season kick-off for this team, was the kind of game any basketball fan wants to watch. I suggest you get to the CCHS gymnasium sometime soon before you're stuck hearing about another amazing game instead of getting to see it live.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sports Talk: Loving Some (Delayed) Rivalry Weekend Excitement

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. This edition of my column was scheduled to be published Dec. 4, 2013 but never ran due to space issues.  
There is an episode of the TV show How I Met Your Mother where the five main characters suddenly realize they will not be able to watch the Super Bowl as they had been planning all week. They decide to simply postpone their ball game fun until the next night and all agree to not find out the result of the game until then. The episode brings numerous entertaining and funny situations as all five attempt to go through their normal Monday and not find out the winner of the game. 

I had my own small dose of this experience over rivalry weekend. While the Super Bowl is something everyone and their mother knows about, even watching your favorite team in delay without finding out the end result takes a real effort these days. 

It was quite an exciting weekend for my family in sports and social aspects. Not only was it the Ohio State-Michigan game, but ever since my brother attended vet school at Auburn University, the Auburn-Alabama rivalry has come to have meaning in our house as well. It was planned that our family "Wood Day" would take place Saturday where my siblings and family friends gather to help my parents build up their firewood supply for the winter. We knew this would interfere with both of the games we wanted to watch, but were all OK with simply recording the games and watching them that night.

Easier said than done.

It used to be common for my dad to record an Ohio State game and wait to watch it on a Sunday. It simply meant avoiding sports news on the TV that night and making sure the other football fans at church knew right away that he hadn't watched the game yet. Today, information travels so quickly and we acquire it in so many ways, it's a challenge to shut off all alleys of communication.

We do have the advantage of my parents living down a long gravel road in a valley so we didn't have to worry about running into someone who would spill the beans. However, we also had to avoid all social networks--no Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus--really it was safest just to avoid the Internet in general. Phones really became risky also. Not only could you not check your social apps, you had to be cautious of text messages and really just not check them. Most people were not aware we weren't watching the game, but know the Buckeye fans we are and wanted to chime in during the game. Smart phones in general were just trouble, because if you had any type of sports notifications set to your phone, there was a chance of big scores or updates popping across your screen.

Somehow, someway, though, we managed to disconnect ourselves from the online, connected world and stay in the dark about the outcomes of both games. However, I will say that even had we heard that Auburn took down Alabama, we might not have believed it watching the final minutes of the game when they were down seven and Alabama continued to drive the field. Talk about a crazy and fun end to any game--let alone a rivalry game where the winner is playing on their home field. And even for us, fans watching on screen, having been to games and tailgating at Auburn made it that much easier to imagine what it must have been like to be there.

I was extra grateful we watched our two games in delay because of the fact my six-week-old baby girl did not allow me to tune in completely to the OSU game and had me miss the Auburn game completely; yet after hearing how incredible the AU game was, I was able to watch it Sunday on the DVR. Fan of either team or not, if you enjoy football, this game was as entertaining as they come and if you have the opportunity to watch it, don't pass it up.

I have two favorite parts to Auburn's victory. First, the fact that the decision about whether regulation time expired when T.J. Yeldon's foot hit out of bounds made Alabama fans happy, but inevitably resulted in Auburn's victory. That one second seemed to be a major threat to the Tigers but it ended up being the greatest thing that could have happened to them. Chris Davis' 109-yard return will go down in history as possibly the greatest ending to any college football game. Seriously, if Hollywood had given us that game, no one would have believed it.

My second favorite part are all of the reactions--primarily to Auburn fans, obviously. One of my favorites, though was watching (listening to) the Auburn announcer commentary during the final play. The shrill, in-the-moment excitement and realization of what was happening as it unfolded is great. Announcers like to be entertaining but keep it together for the most part. In this case, the announcer cannot hold back his disbelief and excitement, repeatedly shouting, with his southern accent, "Auburn's gonna win the football game!! Auburn's gonna win the football game!" (Close second was watching the ball boy run down the field alongside (as best he could) Chris Davis, only to slip and fall when he reached the end zone.)

The play itself was unbelievable, but the game all around was a great one--so many missed opportunities and mistakes for both teams, and so many great plays at the same time. Chris Davis just might become Alabama's own Christian Laettner with the finish that game brought. It's a play that will be remembered by both teams forever and shown again and again.

Between that play (and the win it resulted in) and the Buckeye win, I can't complain much at all about the beginning of this holiday season. We're definitely off to a fantastic start in this family!